PORTLAND – Harold Erickson, a retired engineer for the former Maine Central Railroad, who served as general chairman of the United Transportation Union for nearly three decades, died Wednesday after a brief illness. He was 84.

Mr. Erickson joined the Maine Central Railroad in 1953 as a locomotive fireman. In that role, he worked closely with the train’s engineer and learned how to run the train. For most of his career, he was an engineer at Maine Central’s train yards in Rumford and North Conway, N.H.

Mr. Erickson was a member of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Enginemen. In 1969, the union merged with three others to form the United Transportation Union. He served as general chairman of the union for 28 years, fighting for workers’ rights.

His wife, Louise Bell-Erickson, said he enjoyed representing union members and settling wage matters and disputes. He retired in 1990.

“He was such a hard worker,” his wife said. “He enjoyed helping his men and the challenge of getting the case together and presenting it to the company. It entailed a lot of work.”

Mr. Erickson grew up in Portland. He was a 1948 graduate of Portland High School and a standout on its football and baseball teams. Throughout school and until 1958, he played for the Team Harris Oil baseball team in Portland’s Twilight League.

Mr. Erickson was remembered by his wife Friday as good-natured and easygoing. She said he put 100 percent into everything he did.

The couple met at a singles dance in 1990 at St. Patrick’s Church in Portland. It was the second marriage for both of them.

“I asked him if he knew how to jitterbug,” his wife said. “It’s big for us older people. He accepted my offer to dance. He had a lot of rhythm.”

She reminisced about the day they won a dance contest in Florida. She said most of the participants were younger, but they received the loudest cheers from the audience.

“It was a pretty exciting moment for us,” she said. “There were so many people, but they thought we were the best.”

Mr. Erickson had a passion for golf. He was a longtime member of Riverside Municipal Golf Course in Portland. His wife said he taught her how to play golf. The two had their own golfing friends but also enjoyed playing together.

“Just recently, we were talking about going to the (driving) range” she said.

Mr. Erickson’s health began to decline in February. His wife said he noticed something was wrong when he drove to the store and couldn’t remember how to get home.

His doctor discovered a tumor in his brain. He declined chemotherapy and radiation treatment. His wife said it was difficult to see him lose interest in the things he loved the most.

“Things happened so quickly,” she said. “I’ll miss him. I’ll miss being with him. He just worshiped the ground I walked on. I’ll miss him a lot, but as he told me, I have to get out on the golf course. I got to move on. I have good friends and family, but there will be a great vacancy.” 

Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:

mcreamer@pressherald.com